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08.05.12

New report questions care funding consensus

An influential think tank has said the current consensus on funding long-term care focuses too much on protecting wealthier homeowners’ assets, and not enough on better care for the poorest.

The Centre for Social Justice, founded by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith but independent and cross-party in its governance, says that funding for elderly care should be targeted at the poorest – those with few or no assets – in contrast to the proposals established by the Dilnot commission and supported by the majority of professionals and organisations in the care sector.

It says that given the incredibly poor care received by some at the moment, “protecting the assets of elderly homeowners” should not be the top priority.

The report has been published today as the Government prepares its own delayed white paper into care funding reform.

Economist Andrew Dilnot’s commission last year reported back with proposals to establish a savings threshold for state help of £100,000, a dramatic rise from the current £23,250. It also suggested a £35,000 lifetime cap on how much individuals should contribute.

But the CSJ report, Transforming Social Care, says: “It is difficult to see why the cure proposed by Fairer Care Funding [the Dilnot report] will do anything to improve the lot of the poorest.

“The Government must get its priorities right. The greatest priority remains ameliorating a formal care system which at present treats very many very badly: the quality of care provided is of too low a standard and there are many who do not receive care because their needs are not deemed sufficiently severe.

“The Government must focus much-needed additional funding on this group first before, at a later date, potentially phasing in the Dilnot reforms. It is vital that in terms of social care reform, the Government runs before it can walk.”

Christian Guy, managing director of the CSJ, added: “Understandably, there is a lot of concern about better-off pensioners being forced to sell their homes and use the proceeds to pay for their care until they drop below the means-tested threshold.

“But ministers should make the most vulnerable people and the unacceptable conditions they face their first priority, then phase in the Dilnot recommendations so that help can be extended to all.”

Otherwise, he said, the NHS reforms are “doomed to fail” as hospitals are swamped by older people with multiple conditions failed by the social care system.

Sarah Pickup, who chairs the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “The CSJ is right to say that the Commission has provided a good answer to the question about how to provide people with more certainty about the costs of care and to reduce the risk of catastrophic costs, but also to point out that solving this problem will not address the wider issue of the need for a level of funding which is sufficient to fund quality support and services to meet needs.”

But shadow social care minister Liz Kendall MP told the Guardian: “The current social care system already focuses on the poorest and neediest in society. The problem is that the Government’s cuts to local council budgets have pushed the care system to breaking point. More than £1bn has been cut from council budgets for older people’s social care since the coalition came to power. We need sufficient funding for existing services as well as reform for the future. It’s a false choice to suggest otherwise.”

The report is available at www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/client/downloads/Transforming%20care%20(Apr%202012).pdf

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